The biochemistry of contact lens-cornea interaction is not well understood, although previous studies have suggested that corneal metabolic changes may be the underlying factor in morphological alterations. Using a rabbit model, this interaction has been examined with 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, which detects signals principally from the epithelium. The examination was supplemented with electron microscopy and histochemistry. Polymethylmethacrylate lenses caused reversible changes, including activation of anaerobic glycolysis and disturbance of membrane metabolite levels. These changes were far more severe than those occurring during prolonged eye closure. There appears to be an association between cellular deterioration and loss of membrane metabolites. On the other hand, oxygen-permeable silicone lenses allowed maintenance of nearly normal metabolic patterns. These results show multifaceted corneal response to hard contact lens wear.
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